*** Out of 5
Tagline- Check In. Unpack. Relax. Take a Shower
Release Date- December 4th, 1998
Running Time- 102-Minutes
Screenplay- Joseph Stefano (Novel- Peter Bloch)
Director- Gus Van Sant
Starring- Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen with William H. Macey and Robert Forster
Released in 1998 Psycho is pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original and often gets very subpar reviews. Even though I’m not exactly a fan of the Psycho remake I also feel the film gets a little too much hate, which is easy to understand, but a lot of people bash the film for being a shot for shot remake, but the remake of Night of the Living Dead gets a lot more respect, but I guess Tom Savini being a horror legend people are more forgiving and if someone like say John Carpenter directed this I think it might get less hate. However with that said one has to wonder why Psycho was a shot for shot remake with very little added to it. What’s the point of remaking a film if you’re gonna make the same exact movie? It’s tough to judge Psycho as its own film since its the same as the original, but despite being identical the films couldn’t be anymore different in terms of suspense. The Psycho remake lacks everything that made the original such a masterpiece despite being identical.
Part of the problem with remaking Psycho is everybody knows the story of Norman Bates regardless of if you’ve seen the film or not. By right Norman really isn’t the villain while he’s mentally disturbed he has a split personality and the only thing Norman was guiltily of is covering up a crime. But everybody knows the story and the twist and that’s even ignoring the sequels. Psycho wasn’t some small cult film it was a massive success and one of the most influential films ever made. The twist that Norman is Mother may have shocked audiences in 1960, but as of 1998 when the remake came out it was common knowledge, which for me is another strike against the film. While this was also the case in the novel, but it wasn’t a huge success like the film, which helped make the 1960 version a shocker. The only way to avoid that in the remake would be to put a twist on things and even if it was a great twist it would still be a total failure. Watching the remake you already know exactly what’s gonna happen before it does. I think if anything that’s the biggest problem with the remake since the twist is already known before you even sit down to watch it and changing the twist would completely ruin the film as well. Really no matter what you do you’re destined to fail.
The screenplay was written by Joseph Stefano who also wrote the original film and all he really does is slightly alter some dialogue here and there as the script is nearly identical to his script for the original and I’m guessing as a writer this was Stefano’s easiest payday. The changes made to the script really have no impact whatsoever and I really can’t see any other reason for writing this other than for the money. While the novel by Robert Bloch and the 1960 film are for the most part the same, but it does feature a couple of scenes not in the original and a couple of scenes that are played out a bit differently and I think Stefano may have been better off going in that direction and while the end result would be pretty much the same film it would at least offer a couple of differences.
At one point in his career director Gus Van Sant was better known for his Indie films, but in 1997 with the release of Good Will Hunting he hit the mainstream as the film was a blockbuster hit and got nominated for several Oscars including best picture, best director, best actor and supporting actress with wins for best screenplay and supporting actor and as great of a film as Titanic was I felt than and now Good Will Hunting deserved the best picture win and Van Sant best director. Despite not winning being nominated opens a lot of doors in Hollywood and one has to wonder why with the massive success of Good Will Hunting and with all the projects out there for him why would Gus Van Sant decide to not only remake Psycho, but make an exact copy only with a new cast and in color. The pacing of the film is fairly decent and while it never comes close to matching the original at anytime in any area I can’t say I was ever bored with the remake. Like I said despite being a copy of the original it’s also a totally different film in terms of suspense. I really have no idea why Gus Van Sant it would be a good idea to not only remake Psycho, but do a shot for shot remake. The shower scene Van Sant puts a bit of a twist on it visually at least and it’s a complete failure compared to the original; it lacks the suspense and excitement of the original and Van Sant would have been better served making it a gore scene. It’s not so much it was bad and perhaps if not for the original it wouldn’t be so bad, but there is an original and this sure fails compared to it.
Norman in the original played by Anthony Perkins is quite odd, socially awkward and even a little child like in some ways, whereas Vince Vaughn basically for the most part copies Perkins, but he also comes across as sort of an idiot and simple minded. While I haven’t seen a lot of Vince Vaughn’s work I’ve see enough to find him a good actor, but here he was the wrong choice for Norman. Even ignoring Anthony Perkins, Vaughn still isn’t very good in the role. His scenes with Anne Heche in the parlor and later with Arbogast in the office are awkward and not in the way they were meant to be. He’s not terrible I guess, but wasn’t the right choice and compared to Perkins the performance is a failure. Rest of the cast is ok with cameos from James LeGros (Phantasm II) and James Remar (Warriors) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) with bit parts from Robert Forster and Philip Baker Hall, but outside of William H. Macey nobody really stands out and despite greet actors like Viggo Mortensen they’re all rather forgettable. It’s a great cast for the Psycho remake, but they’re al wasted.
Overall the Psycho remake isn’t as bad as it was totally pointless. As much as I love the original Psycho I can avoid a bias view as many films I hold in as high regard as Psycho have also been remade with some of them I hated and others I liked, but this was just pointless and I’m not really sure what anyone was thinking. The film isn’t as bad as reviews you may have read though I cannot defend it from negative reviews since I see where they’re coming from. Psycho isn’t the worst film ever made, but easily one of the most pointless as its a shot for shot remake for 99% of the film. While I didn’t hate it I really sure didn’t love it either.